The hungry cat eats the fish, even if the fish is an
interesting biological specimen.
Photo © Sophy Kozlova | Dreamstime.com.
When a hungry cat sees a fish, the hungry cat eats the fish. This is true even if the cat is on a ship on an Antarctic research expedition and the fish is a just-discovered species previously unknown to science.
We know this because of a certain incident that occurred back in 1842 (February 21, to be exact). Sir James Clark Ross (for whom the Ross Ice Shelf is named), aboard HMS Erebus, was leading an Antarctic expedition to collect biological samples and attempt to reach the south magnetic pole. The expedition included a second ship, HMS Terror, commanded by Francis Crozier.
Our incident took place on the Terror during a particularly nasty gale, with temperatures at 19 degrees and waves crashing over the ship’s bow and freezing on the decks and rigging. A heavy coating of ice is not a nice thing to have on a ship, so the men were busily chopping ice from the bow when “a small fish was found in the mass; it must have been dashed against the ship, and instantly frozen fast” (Ross, p. 198).
Intending to preserve the unusual fish, the ship’s surgeon/naturalist saw that it was carefully removed from the ice, measured and sketched, but before he could get to the preserving part, the fish “was unfortunately seized upon and devoured by a cat” (Ross, p. 198). The sketch was not detailed enough to allow scientists to classify the fish, but it did seem to be of a new species. Presumably the cat did not care what species the fish was; the cat only cared that it was edible.
The name of this particular cat is not known. We do know that he or she was the hardy sort of feline willing to venture onto a ship’s deck during an icy gale. Also, the cat liked seafood.
Sir James Clark Ross, A Voyage of Discovery and Research in the Southern Antarctic Regions During the Years 1839–43, vol. 2. London: John Murray, 1847. Available on GoogleBooks.